No matter where you are in the world, weddings are full of traditions and symbols that are meant to celebrate a couple’s love and the commencement of a happy and successful life together.
But depending where you are in the world, some wedding customs really take the cake (in many cases, literally). From a ritual sharing of milk, to romantic feats done with a bow and arrow, and plenty of brightly colored confetti, these international wedding customs are bound to make you swoon.
In Rwanda, a wedding is a multi-step process... and many of those steps involve cows in some way. Many marriages are arranged in Rwanda, and as part of the negotiations, a dowry is provided. But it’s a somewhat unique one: The dowry must be comprised primarily of cows — at least one, but it can be more.
Cows figure into further steps of the marriage process, too. Once negotiations are complete, the groom’s family is presented with gourds of milk. Then, as the pinnacle of the ceremony itself, the bride and groom drink milk together. A moo-gical moment, indeed!
Shooting Arrows at the Bride
Chinese weddings are epic, and some traditional weddings can last up to two days. That’s a lot of traditions. But perhaps the strangest, yet sweetest, tradition involves shooting the bride.
This custom might sound gruesome, but it’s actually quite sweet. As part of a Chinese wedding, the groom shoots several arrows at the bride, but don’t worry: They’re devoid of heads, so she’s in no real danger. Once the groom has completed this task, he proceeds to collect the arrows and break them. This is seen as a symbol of their everlasting love.
A Tower of Wine and Cake
Cakes are traditional at weddings, but Norway takes the custom to stratospheric levels of sweetness. At a Norwegian wedding, instead of a traditional cake, you’re likely to see a cone-shaped confection. It’s called kransekake, and it’s composed of meringue-like almond cake rings of graduated size stacked atop one another. The cake is often festooned with decorations and frosting, making for a striking centerpiece.
As part of the ceremony, the couple lifts the top ring from the cake, and the number of succeeding rings that stick to it when lifted is said to be how many children the couple will have.
But that’s not all. There’s often a secret hidden inside of those cake rings: a bottle of wine! It’s a thoughtful way to have your cake and drink your wine, too.
Usually, smashing plates is associated with fights in a marriage. But in Germany, it’s a joyful part of the wedding celebration itself. In a tradition called polterabend, guests get together and break porcelain objects the night before the wedding. Inspired by the adage “scherben bringen glück,” this translates into “shards bring luck.”
Of course, somebody must clean up all those shards. Traditionally, the couple is responsible for cleaning up the mess. This process is a symbol that while married life won’t be easy, together they are up to the challenge.
Talk about a lovey-dovey tradition! In the Philippines, once the wedding ceremony is completed, the bride and groom release a pair of doves (one male and one female) into the air during the reception.
Doves are a symbol of peace. In the context of the Filipino wedding ceremony, their flight is a symbol of peace and harmony for the couple’s new life together.